Historically I have always kept my gold cards to an absolute minimum in the cube. While there are lots of very powerful gold cards floating about the place they are inherently far less playable than mono cards (hybrid costed cards aside). If you assume each type of colour combination is played equally .There are 31 different colour combinations in magic, let us assume each is played equally although there is a bias towards the fewer coloured decks in reality which further enhances my point. A mono coloured card is playable in 15 of the 31 possible colour combinations while a two colour gold card is only playable in 8 of the combinations. Without any consideration for anything else we can say on average that non hybrid gold cards are about half as playable as mono coloured cards and therefore need to be stronger to obtain a slot. Requiring twice the power would be unrealistic and leave almost no gold cards in the cube but I do still demand more from a gold card when assessing them. This will be more obvious in the difference between the power and support ratings I give the gold cards as for the most part their power will be the higher of the two categories.
With the latest block being a gold based one I have greatly increased the number of gold cards in my cube, in part for the influx of cube worthy gold cards from Return to Ravnica block but also to take this good opportunity to test out lots of the less deserving RtR cards and give some play time to some older high power gold cards that haven't had much play in the past due to my aversion to gold. The more gold you have in the cube the more playable they become relative to the mono cards as they offer more incentives to go into other colours. While they will never overtake the mono cards for playability it is best to test them on mass as it is the closest they can get in draft. Many of the cards in this review are still very new to the cube meaning I will not have a complete view on the spell and so I will not dwell overly long on them.
This card embodies versatility and is never a dead card. It can offer free wins if they hiccough on lands, has aged well to hit planeswalkers and is one of the few absolute auto include cards if you have the colours easily accessible. I view a double colour requirement and sorcery speed as a limitation rather than an actual drawback such as that of Beast Within. The double colour is good as vindicate would get played too much otherwise and get very boring for deck construction. Instant speed would obviously be better but I think we already have enough from this card. While quite a bland card the sheer number of targets it can hit means it does offer lots of choices. The most common of those is weather to use on a low power target to gain immediate tempo or save it to deal with a card that ruins you. This is particularly difficult if you have no other enchantment removal say and happen to be playing verses an Opposition deck. When you cast it it never feels that powerful, it is always at the bottom end in terms of comparisons for what you are hitting. It costs the same as Stone Rain but is harder to cast, it costs a great deal more than Doom Blade and isn't instant and the same for Disenchant. It is almost closer to Demonic Tutor than any other card as it does basically everything (removal wise) but costs a little more to do. Vindicate is a card that pretty much conforms to the optimal situation of being twice as powerful as an equivalent mono coloured card, in this case Desert Twiseter, therefore making it a cube mainstay even if you are a total fascist against gold.
Maelstrom Pulse 1.5 (B cube)
This is a far cry from vindicate. Not being an instant is far more significant on this spell as it can't deal with man lands and, while still very versatile, feels more over-costed than vindicate and is thus a very clunky card. The hit all copies effect is rarely of relevance in the cube and doesn't feel like card advantage even when hitting multiple tokens. The main feature of this spell is that it kills planeswalkers, when it does do this however you are generally behind as they have traded one for one, with pretty similar mana but had at least one use from thier walker. The only real way to kill a walker and feel ahead is to do so by attacking with guys you have in play or a counterspell. Pulse is what you play when you don't have room in a deck to play a couple of more specific yet far better spells. Black green is one of the most common colour combinations which works in this cards favour but with Abrupt Decay now on offer and Beast Within as well the Pulse is no longer a card people want in their decks. It is fine filler but hurts the average power level of your deck even if it does make it safer. Black green is fairly safe as it is and is in more need of power than security.
Recoil is far less of a removal spell than Pulse or Vindicate or even Beast Within but it makes up pretty well for this by being instant and offering no drawback. It is hard to lose card advantage by playing this spell, which makes it an excellent bounce spell but then again it would have to be at three mana. It is quite easy to play around Recoil by keeping land in hand, and so it sees less play as a result. Black is the discard colour however and if supported by some of blacks discard arsenal Recoil starts to look better than Vindicate. While bounce is generally very versatile you rarely want to use this on your own cards making it less powerful as bounce. Overall the costing of this card seems about right leaving it as a medium power level card that can be shifted in either direction based on deck design and opponents skill. At worst it is an overcosted bounce spell but still totally fine, at best it is instant speed Vindicate which is some good.
Pernicious Deed 4.1
Unlike vindicate the Deed fails at dealing with planeswalkers. It makes up for this in a few ways. By playing your own walkers you can take advantage of the downside and destroy the world heavily in your favour board position wise. Walkers are already good enough and don't need to be encouraged on both sides of the table for silly reasons like this! While being generally very good the Deed single-handedly annihilates most artifact based strategies. As this remains perfectly good without artifacts it is not at all a hoser, neither is it used solely for that purpose. Things tend to just be dull and one sided when Deed is faced by the artifact deck which does not do too much to improve the cube. This is just something we will have to live with as both artifacts and deed are too good to cut. Deed also savages decks like white weenie and even red deck wins as they not only invest in many cheap threat by diversify having non creature threats like equipment, Sulphuric Vortex, Cursed Scroll, Crusade and so forth, all of which Deed eats up happily as well. While not as cheap as something like Akroma's Vengeance most of the time you can still use it in the three to five mana region just to take off some pressure. You can also split the cost over a couple of turns meaning that you can get mass removal with Deed before you can with cards like the Vengeance. The good points about Deed keep coming; you can use it at instant speed making it very effective against so many more things including man lands, combo decks, haste dorks etc. You can usually save using it a bit to force your opponent into an inefficient use of mana or casting order. You can use it to reset the board or you can use it as light disruption taking out some of the chaff. You can flop it down and just leave it there as a deterrent to them making too much. You can flop out a fatty and then kill everything else. Deed is a card that has vast power and ability to affect the game yet it also has great flexibility in how it may be used. It is one of the top gold cards printed and a cornerstone of any control deck using black and green. Deed is so good it is played in some more aggressive decks too!
Lightening Helix 3.0
The helix is vastly overrated by most players in most formats. It does all the things you want it to do and is great value with the three life. 3 damage is the right number for two mana, instant is optimal. The three life you gain rarely makes much odds however and on that basis incinerate is the better card (despite helix being less playable in general anyway due to more restrictive colour requirements). When you are the one playing the burn your life total tends to be irrelevant except in the mirror match, which is difficult in cube! The helix is a real pain to cast more often than you would think and disrupts the other plays you want to make. All this said it is still a cheap, hefty burn spell with lots of added value and one of the best things to have under an isochron sceptre. It is a much much better control card as the life is far more useful but will see play in basically all RW agro decks too. I think people just can't refuse the power it offers or just assume it must be better than incinerate without thinking what their deck is about. Another drawback to Helix is that it is very easy to sac guys in response and negate the life gain which as a control deck might be something you were relying on. Great fun to kill Precursor Golems with on the other hand!
Terminate 1.6 (C cube)
A very unexciting card in a very unexciting and uncommon colour combination. Terminate is pretty happy in most decks that are red and black but not that much better than the abundant alternatives. With the Arrival of Dreadbore Terminate almost never gets a slot despite it being the better creature kill spell. Flexibility wins out over instant in this case, not to mention the lack of things that cheaply and easily kill planeswalkers. Terminate remains one of the better pure creature kill cards but is still as much in the shadow of Path and Plow as the other good contenders while being far more restrictive. This is the sort of gold card I dislike in my cube as it is only ever so slightly better than the mono coloured alternatives, offers nothing unique or different and still comes with all the restrictions for gold cards.
Fire / Ice 4.2
Another of my all time favourite cards and I think the most versatile card in Magic despite being a rather hard category to quantify. Either half of this card is would be perfectly fine as a single card in their own right. Fire/Ice is also not as restrictive as the non-hybrid mana gold cards as you can still put it to use while missing a colour. You are in fact often more than happy to run this card in a mono red or more typically blue deck with only the faintest hope of having the other colour, say a single Mox Diamond. Fire offers what all burns offers, good removal for small monsters and an occasional finisher yet it offers more - the chance to get a very cheap two for one. Arc Trail is incredibly powerful for this reason and while less damage, Fire is instant. Ice has more uses than Fire, offering the simple cycle option, or fogging attackers, or tapping mana sources, either to disrupt their plays or force through your own. The scope this card has to affect the early game against all archetypes is huge, it is able to generate tempo and card advantage simultaneously. Neither half is ever dead as all games involve life totals and permanents. You basically can't go far wrong with this little gem, an auto include in every deck with red and blue mana and still frequently played with just one of those colours.
Thopter Foundry 0.8 (B cube)
Thopter Foundry supplements affinity decks very nicely and is a strong combo deck with Sword of the Meek. Although non-essential this card has many good uses in affinity such as making fliers to force through damage, a sacrifice outlet that retains your artifacts in play count and a life gain spell for against red decks. It is however quite hard to cast in affinity and offers little immediate tempo thus seeing infrequent play overall. Thopter Foundry Sword of the Meek is one of the better combo decks in the cube but it does demand a fair number of niche support cards such as Time Sieve, Second Sunrise, Ichor Wellspring and the like making it something I generally leave out of the A cube. It is easy to tutor for the combo pieces, fairly robust and has lots of synergy with other good artifacts. Beyond affinity and the combo deck there are no decks for this unusual card.
Bloodbraid Elf 3.5
Card advantage on a good aggressive monster, fearsome to the control player. On average this card is really under-costed too as three mana for a 3/2 haste is about right, the extra one you pay extra for your dork is compared to the cost of the spell you cascade into. Assuming you hit a two or three mana spell you have under-costed tempo, aggression and card advantage. Bloodbraid actually improved with the removal of power as you got less dud hits on moxen. She can still be somewhat random with consistency hard to engineer in singleton formats. She cannot be played with much counter magic and is weak with combat tricks, various silver bullets or random answer cards. Even with multiple dud or weak things she can cascade into she is well worth inclusion in most red green creature based decks as she is still pretty goofdwhen you wiff the cascade. I have seen her used very swell in Seismic Assault decks in order to go fetch it easily. It is a shame the cascade mechanic is so random as it reduces the skill level a bit. You have to be a bit careful with how you build when including this but there is no need to harm your plan to play her, she is still great even when you hit a Bird of Paradise. Most red green decks will play her although she is best in the agro decks. In control decks her haste is often wasted as you need to hold back to block, her low toughness to mana cost makes her a weaker defensive dork and even though you will probably hit more expensive spells on average in the control decks than the agro ones the control decks are less redundant and so will have much more random outcomes. Red green beats is just about a tier one deck but has to continually adapt to the meta to stay competitive. Zoo is the other great home for the Elf and in both decks she is a mainstay.
Mystic Snake 1.3 (B cube)
At four mana this card tends to broadcast itself and is pretty hard to rely on as a counterspell if you wish to carry on making other plays. The tempo swing is not that great either as a 2/2 body fails to achieve all that much. The redeeming feature of this critter is the ability to repeatedly bounce and recast it forming a soft lock on your opponent. There are some other nice perks from having a counterspell attached to a creature like this aside the recursion such as tutor effects. An old magic folk lore tells of the horrors of a backfiring mystic snake:
Player A - casts Fact or Fiction
Player B - casts Negate targetting Fact or Fiction
Player A - casts Mystic Snake
Player B - responds to Mystic Snake with a Disrupt targetting their negate and neglects to pay 1. Snake resolves with the only target on stack being Fact or Fiction. Presumably player A then feeling very pleased with themselves goes on to win with ease.
Murderous Redcap 2.5
I am rather biased against the duel colour cards as I find them very ugly in decks not of both colours. They are of course better than mono coloured cards and significantly better than normal gold cards but this doesn't always stop me playing something else less ugly in my deck. Despite me being bad and having my reservations the Redcap is a very powerful card. He is generally more card advantage than the other 187 creatures and is far less often dead in your hand. On the whole Redcap is the control decks choice card where as Flame Tongue Kavu and Skinrender are the more aggressive choices as they have much greater impact on the board due to greater immediate killing potential and bigger bodies. The Redcap is more of a speed bump, like Solemn Simulacrum, that is really unappealing to attack into. He is also a great utility monster in Recurring Nightmare and / or Birthing Pod decks. With those effects and Wolfir Silverheart you can utterly utterly abuse people. Getting to "ping" for 6 and 5, or even just one of those is pretty significant, it will one shot a walker or a big threat or make a big dent to a life total. Decent in goblins, rock variants, any mid-range or control deck in one of its colours, although best when both for ease of casting. Rather on the pricey side for a utility creature and something that excels at killing chaff but usually enough value in both tempo and card advantage to make the cut.
Shadowmage Infiltrator 1.5 (B cube)
Shadowmage Infiltrator has been around in my cube for a long time and is starting to wobble on the margin between the A and B cubes due to the power creep. He finds most play in mid range blue black decks rather than pure agro or control. He will still see some play in Psychatog or other blue black pure control decks but is sharing more and more with cards like Jace Beleren, Vampire Nighthawk, Enclave Cryptologist and Seagate Oracle. Cards that either impact the board more or that draw cards more quickly and safely. He is fairly robust and connects reliably enough to be worth the mana. He is quite an all round card offering you some board presence, card advantage and quite a serious threat in the long run on the cheap. Back in the day his higher relative power meant he would go in most blue black decks happily, now other more juicy options exist and his lack of being outstanding in any one regard mean he is not an auto include in any deck and seeing fairly little play.
Kitchen Finks 4.0
An incredibly powerful monster that works in control and agro decks equally well. Thanks to Meliria the Finks has a combo deck of sorts too. The hybrid cost with only two thirds colour requirement, unlike Boggart Ram-Gang, finds the Finks in many non white or non green decks. Zoo and the rock are the two most frequent homes of the Finks. Kitchen Finks are also about the best card you can play against aggressive mono red equating to about a 4 for 1. While they would be far less exciting without either one of the life gain or the persist (but still having a 4 life gain) the Finks would still be a cube worthy powerful monster. Great tempo gain through lasting board position and life gain push them over the edge of reasonable power. They need no support cards to make them powerful although do have good synergy with sacrifice effects and things that remove counters or add +1/+1 counters. Undying is a much more powerful mechanism than persist but no monsters with either effect have been printed that are so devoid of drawbacks and so easy to include in decks as the Finks. As a relatively low colour intensity hybrid card it is more playable than most mono coloured cards. It is simply oozing convenience, value, efficiency and tempo. One of the very best monsters in magic and one of the most played cube cards.
Geist of Saint Traft 2.6
This guy offers a lot of punch for just three mana and being hexproof is of great help with his fragile body, both for safe equipping and avoiding spot removal. The card is not without its drawbacks however, the most obvious being that he has few decks in which he is really at home. UW has a selection of aggressive options and is certainly competitive but it is quite clumsy to build and lacks great synergies resulting in it being an uncommon deck to encounter. The only other places this shows up are 4 or 5 colour zoo decks and UWR tricksy tempo decks. Gold cards inherently struggle to find numerous homes however even if this were mono white or mono blue it probably still wouldn't be an auto include for many decks. Three is a funny point on the curve for most agro decks as the really game winning cards cost 4 or more and your agro base costs 2 or less. Cards that are just quite good frequently don't make the cut in the aggressive decks as the few slots are reserved for cards you need to do a specific thing such as a Viridian Shaman. The other huge problem with this card is that you generally only get one attack out of it. Most decks pack a bunch of cheap utility creatures, most of which trade with the Geist and very gladly at that. Getting good value out of the Geist is quite hard and requires them to have few dorks while you have good removal. His best use is taking out planeswalkers with the Angel on the one attack he is likely to get. He is also quite nice as a sort of danger card that you can lay and have your opponent play too much around the card despite all it is doing in the present is sitting in play doing nothing.
Boggart Ram-Gang 2.0 (B cube)
Gangs of goblins are always good and this guy lives up to that. While all the goblins in this gang are condensed into one body it is a solid tempo card. A decent size in addition to haste and the ability to take permanent chunks out of huge monsters is a big swing of tempo. Wither has just got a little worse with undying monsters arriving and was not the most relevant of effects before then but is still definitely better than not having it. Unike Kitchen Finks or the other hybrid mana dorks the Ram-Gang being tripple red or green needs to be played in mono red, mono green or red green. I have seen it played in Naya and Jund type decks but I am not a huge fan of that, if you can't cast it on turn three or when you have three mana the gang starts to look a lot worse. In other words it is more restrictive than normal RG gold cards which may be played in 8/31 of the colour combinations with this only really working in 3/31. He used to see a lot of play in red deck wins but that has had really good one and two drops that have edged the Gang out of the picture somewhat. He now primarily gets played in RG beats as mono green stompy has not progressed past a tier 2 deck, he is also usually guaranteed a spot in goblins decks despite have no synergy with Warchief at all. The best thing that you can do with a Ram-Gang is reveal it to the cascade of Bloodbraid Elf.
Knight of the Reliquary 2.8
This is a very powerful and useful little dork that has loads of applications and trickery. She can ramp, she can fix, she can tutor, she thins your deck, she grows and all for the bargain cost of three. A few things however keep her much more in check in the cube than she has been in constructed formats. Firstly with 40 card decks you can only play so many cool lands to go and fetch as you won't reliably have a forest of plains to ditch if you have too many non basics. Having only one copy of Temple Garden and Savannah makes you more reluctant to pitch those, even more so with things like Taiga when you are more than just green white. Secondly a lot of the good lands to go and get with the Knight are way to narrow to ever have slots in the cube such as the Sejiri Steppe. Secondly the Knight is pretty slow often being a lowly 2/2 with no impact on the board when cast. She is an aggressive utility creature like a Fauna Shaman or a Lotus Cobra and will tend to see play in creature based decks that want to be the aggressor however she is much more suited to being on defence so as to be able to block and activate.This means she is at her best in creature on creature games. Unless she is finding man lands or surviving a Geddon or Cataclysm against control she is not the best threat against control and is pretty ineffective against combo.
Psychatog 1.9 (B cube)
Good old teeth has sadly not aged all that well nor transferred over to the cube format with all the perks he had in constructed. Exiling cards, particularly in blue decks with their reshuffle effects, is always a little uncomfortable and trying to have enough to get the Tog to 20 power or close to is a really tall order in 40 card decks without it being a complete all in effort. On top of this there is no redundancy for Tog in the cube and so basing a strategy around him is pretty risky. Tog Upheaval is a very weak deck in cube not just for the ease of going Plains Path to exile after they reset the game with a Tog on their side. He is still a very versatile creature and good in both quirky agro control decks as well as control decks. In the latter he doubles up as both an early speed bump as well as a potential late game win condition but should definitely not be relied upon for the latter and certainly not at the expensive of crippling yourself early to keep him about. He has too few homes and too much anti synergy with all round top quality cards like Snapcaster Mage to get much play these days. It is too onerous to be able to have much more than a 1/2 in the early game as offers you far less tempo or protection than most of the other three drop dorks in blue and black. While he gets better as the game goes on he does not scale fast enough compared to say the various blue level up dorks and so does not compete for slots from that angle either.
Qasali Pridemage 3.0
In a single colour this would be better than a 3.5 as it is the optimal utility dork. A very efficient beater that also serves as an answer to loads of annoying cards that otherwise would require diluting of your deck to be able to deal with and leave you with dead cards and bad draws. Although you have to lose the dork to kill a thing unlike Viridian Shaman you are not constrained by keeping it back until needed and are therefore able to curve out nicely with it. It is also one of the best tempo dorks you can cast on two which is ideal on a card filling a utility role. Getting to hit for one extra immediately with a one drop or hitting himself for three is quite hefty in the early game. Exalted is quite nice hidden information to have too as you can alter the combat and do things like kill of walkers they thought would be safe. It is basically an auto include in any green white deck with creatures in. Being able to hit both artifacts and enchantments is nice too as many of the white, green and red creatures that deal with awkward permanents only hit one or the other. Viridian Zealot originally had a cube slot and saw play as a cheaper alternative to Nantuko Vigilante however it was all round really awful, you never wanted to lose it in combat as you would then be without your answer, you also often tried to keep up activation mana to sacrifice as a response to things. The cheaper activation, exalted and extra toughness make Pridemage much more powerful and usable than any other creature of this kind.
Figure of Destiny 2.9
A wonderfully designed card that was a precursor the great mechanic of levelling. Figure has a lot going for it being usable in two of the better weenie colours, being a one drop and also a late game threat. As a one drop it is rather like a Pounching Jaguar as it achieves really very little without becoming a 2/2 first which obviously ties up extra mana. Overall it is better than an echo 2/2 for one or a haste 2/2 for 2 as you get the flexibility in how you curve out with it. The level mechanic is pleasantly different from actual level monsters for two reasons, one that is better and one worse, keeping it in good balance overall. Figure may be grown (or shrunk!) at instant speed which is significantly more convenient than other levellers however the increments of cost increase meaning you can't physically reach higher levels without all the mana to do so in one go making it a worse mana sink. While not the most efficient card for its mana the flexibility and good scaling of the card throughout the game make it one of the best one drops in the game. Most comparable to Student of Warfare it is a little less efficient for the cost but more flexible in where and how it may be played. Although only a single mana hybrid card it does suffer the same restrictions as Ram-Gang in that only 3/31 colour combinations will play it due to needing the potential to level up for it to be good. Unlike Ram-Gang red and Boros deck wins and white weenie, three common tier 1 decks, are all within the three colours that can make the best use of Figure and so it gets a lot of play.
Trygon Predator 2.2
This little critter is a little bit Vampire Nighthawk, most notably for the 2/3 flying body for 3 which is a great start for any dork both in control and agro decks. 2/3 is the first really golden power and toughness in the cube thus offering a great window of power level at good value. Flying is also shining as the best ability to have on your dorks thus making the perfect little package. Typically I like my more utility focused monsters to offer value when you cast them like Viridian Shaman however the body alone on Predator makes this much less of an issue. With Viridian Shaman type creatures you have to hold them back based on the game state to get any real value from them and with cards like Qasali Pridemage which can be more proactive you have to lose the dork in order to use it as removal. Predator is the best of both worlds as you can throw it down at your convenience and either prevent the sensible casting of enchantments and artifacts or deal with those in play already and still be around during and after. The payback for this is that as a pure removal spell it is slow and easy to disrupt Predator and is better used as a supplement to more dedicated removal when required in a deck. Most decks have some artifacts or enchantments even since the removal of the power and so you can be sure to get more than just 2/3 flying value out of Predator while playing blind. It is often the case that the few artifacts and enchantments in a deck are either really serious threats or of high importance to the decks plan and so even in decks where there are only a couple of targets it is good to be able to deal with them, great example of this include the various equipment, most notably the Swords, Sulphuric Vortex, Zuran Orb, Sneak Attack, Crucible of the Worlds, Oath of Druids and so forth. At worst you have a reasonably priced evasive monster and at best you have won the game entirely off the back of it where no other card in your deck would have been of much use.
Baleful Strix 3.7
I almost resent this card as it is just too good with no drawback or choices to speak of and it sort of isn't a real magic card putting in a very similar bracket to Scavenging Ooze. It has not been in the cube all that long but has been played in every single UB deck since its addition and performed exactly as expected. Elvish Visionary and Wall of Omens are both frequently played A cube cards. Primarily both are played as a two drop that draws a card, the elf is just a body to be done away with via Skullclamps etc or offer up synergy for better elves where as the wall is more of a speedbump against aggressive decks. The Strix does both of those roles, arguably better and offers a whole lot more to boot. The only two drawbacks I can think of in this respect are the lowly 1 toughness compared to Wall making it easier to burn out the way (still offering a 2 for 1...) and that it costs two coloured mana and not one. Being an artifact is more of an advantage than a disadvantage as you can Tinker it or play it in affinity or discard to Thirst for Knowledge, it is also immune to both Go for the Throat and Doomblade which no other dorks in my cube can claim and cannot be intimidated or feared passed. Being easier to kill as more removal can target it is no real concern as it is cheap and replaces itself card wise. Flying and deathtouch is about the best defensive combo a cheap card can have (see Vampire Nighthawk again as the benchmark for all that is good in cheap dorks) making it scale really well into the late game due to being able to trade with the better and better threats. Flying also makes it pretty decent if you do want to get aggressive with it. Hitting for one is weak but better than nothing and likely to get through and nibbling loyalty off planeswalkers is pretty good, when equipment comes into the picture however flying becomes outstanding and the low power far less relevant. Any card which does something early and replaces itself is gold in control decks. I am rarely thankful for a card being gold as it restricts its use but when a card is so obviously all round fantastic like Vindicate it is a blessing so you don't encounter it in every single deck. Where this just blue or black it would see more play than Remand, as it is we shall only see it in every UB deck from here out. I have been wreaked by it in affinity decks and in pure UB control decks. Many of the recent cards that are well above the appropriate power level such as Snapcaster, Delver of Secrets and Deathrite Shaman have all got interesting aspects to their design which force you to build and play specifically for them. This makes them far better cards in terms of good quality games of magic, Strix on the other hand falls into the fairly brainless category along with Thragtusk where it has no pre-requisites and is just always good, you put it in your deck, you cast it when you have the mana and find yourself ahead.
Edric, Spymaster of Trest 2.5
A nifty little critter that fits very well into UG creature decks. Obviously it was designed for a different format and is consequently much better in one on one magic than intended however it is not unreasonably good, partly through being gold but also from being easy to deal with and somewhat dependant on other cards. If you have lots of small evasive guys when you cast this then it is basically game over unless they can instantly remove Edric in combat. If you have no other guys or at least any that can productively attack then Edric is offering very little value. Most times he is played he managed to get you one or two cards, the average number being in that region as well. If this is compared to Consecrated Sphinx which generally gets at least two cards and is likely averaging about 5 per cast you can see why I don't think this is over powered. A fairly irrelevant body that you need to keep alive and so won't be doing a whole lot of much that also depends on the quality of your other dorks and your opponents board position. He is also a little bit win more as if you have a couple of creatures you are able to get through unblocked then you are already winning. I do really like that he is an Elf as it makes Opposition Elves a more tempting splash and adds another dimension to the deck. Elves is one of the best types of deck for this effect anyway as you have so many little critters early to get in with. Often in elf decks you have 5 guys to their 2 but don't want to attack as you will deal like 3 or 4 damage and put two of your elves in the bin while they keep both their dorks. This feels much better when you also get a free Ancestral Recall as well. Vulnerable, situational and overkill in many of the appropriate situations but cheap, very powerful and able to affect the game on the turn you make him resulting in a card that gets played in about half of the UG(x) creature based decks. He is good but not as good as he looks.
Shardless Agent 3.6
Controversial perhaps but I think this card trumps Bloodbraid Elf. Lets just say the cost of the cascade effect is one mana then Shardless agent is a two costing 2/2 which is less exciting than a three mana 3/2 with haste but not directly comparable due to different positions on the curve. If we tried scaling the power to make them cost the same for a more direct comparison we might conclude something like you get haste for one toughness with Bloodbraid over Agent. Haste is one of the best effects a dork can have and certainly worth one toughness so it is safe to say that Bloodbraid is the better dork but we would be kidding ourselves if we thought these cards were primarily about the body. It is all about the value you get from your cascade that makes both of these cards fantastic, if you want more guys, or more tempo or more card advantage they tick all the boxes. It generally doesn't matter what you hit assuming you have no total duds to hit like counterspells in your deck, you will get a good deal of what you want because your deck will be doing a thing. So my argument boils down to cascade for 2 being better than cascade for 3. Clearly this only applies when you pay 3 and 4 mana respectively otherwise the cascade for more generally has more potential to have most power. Cascade is at its most powerful when you hit the most expensive card you can cascade into and so if you assume an even distribution on the mana curve you increase your odds of hitting the highest card you can by having the lower cascade. You have a 50% chance of hitting a two drop with you Agent but only a 33% chance to hit a three drop with Bloodbraid. On the other end of things when you hit a lowly one drop Llanowar Elf with you Bloodbraid you feel ripped off and have a card that is far less useful at that stage of the game. When you hit the Llanowar with Agent it is perfectly acceptable. As cascade is generally a very random affair it is best to take the statistical approach to analysing it. Another bonus of the lower cascade is that it imposes less restrictions on your deck construction as there will not be as many cards you don't want to cascade into. You can play Forbid with the Agent but not well with the Bloodbriad etc. Being blue gives you the easy option of throwing in Ancestral Visions for than instant draw three jackpot. Being an artifact will probably get this dorks another few homes for one reason or another but in the more obvious decks like Zoo and Opposition it is a mixed blessing. Sometimes its holds off their Shriekmaw while evading the Go for the Throat while other times it runs into a Manic Vandal they had collecting dust in their hand. While it would be more exiting as a UB, UR or perhaps even a UW card it is a very interesting and powerful card with a lot more potential to still be unlocked.
Simic Sky Swallower 2.0
My cube lacked fatties which do improve draft formats and this one is a nice all round fatty. It is hard to kill, hard to stop or get past, offers a decent clock and is not over the top expensive. Seven is a lot of mana with the cut off point being 6 mana for normal decks. Green decks are able to get away with very high cost cards, both from its ability to ramp and that it often rebalances a long stretching mana curve with lots of stuff at the low end. Occasionally it is a card that is cheated into play but is more commonly just a very reliable win condition for control decks. With very expensive cards it is good to be able to put them to other uses in the early game which is actually quite doable with Swallower despite having no built in ways of doing this. Blue has an abundance of hand and library manipulation and green has lots of effects to discard creatures to and let us not forget Force of Will. When trying to up the count of something in the cube I like to pick the most all round example of such a card and this is a good example of me doing that. Played in some Oath and Reanimator decks as well as GU based control and ramp decks. Sky Swallower is a prime example of a pure threat, its roles are clear and it does them well without doing much else. It is a card that gets to work on its own and offers little support to other cards. So often I build five colour control decks and realise just as I am putting the finishing touches on it I really struggle to win and need an actual threat. In those situations this is one of the fist dorks I reach for.
Dromar's Charm 1.8 (B cube)
I ramble on a lot about not having many gold cards as they go in far fewer decks. Putting a few numbers on that might help. There are 31 combinations of different coloured deck you can build in magic of which any one given colour will be present in is half. Sadly the maths is not simple as there are far more mono decks and two colour decks played than those with greater numbers of colours for which any one colour is only in a third of the decks. Even so, the number of decks that can play a card of any given single colour is very high, probably around 40%. If you then look at how many decks can play a card with two colours it can only go in a 15th of the most common deck types. Including all 31 types a 2 colour gold card can only go in 8 of them but at the very best there is no way a gold card will go in more than 20% of the archetypes because of the tendency to play fewer colours. The least restrictive of gold cards (ie just two colours) are about half as playable than a mono card so how unplayable are three colour cards?!? I would say roughly 75% of decks are mono or dual colour and three colour cards cannot be played in these decks. They can only be played in 4 of the total 32 all of which are three times less played than other colour combinations. At best a triple colour gold card will be playable in 4 or 5% of the field. This would mean Dromar's Charm would have to be about twenty times better than the worst mono card in my cube to obtain a space. This kind of reasoning however should not be the only thing one considers as you will never have any triple colour gold cards. The power of the card for its cost but not concerning their different colours must be taken into account. A card of sufficient power at the right point in a draft might convince you to make a splash and so forth. Dromar's Charm is a subtle but highly powerful spell that fills in so many holes in the kinds of deck that play those kinds of colour I think it is a good card to include so as to increase the interesting and difficult choices in draft. It is easy to splash for any deck already in two of the colours and doing so will lead to a very strong archetype with many other perks and synergies. Charm is not unlike Cryptic Command in that is covers you in lots of ways. Life gain is surprisingly useful and can feel like time walking against the right decks. Removal is always nice and as with the life gain when you card is not committed to doing a narrow thing it is both much more powerful and able to offer much more utility. Countering spells is great, everyone loves it and the three mana hard counter for only one blue mana is not too bad of a deal even in cube. Dromar's is my favourite out of the many three colour charms although Esper is cool and Bant is very powerful despite being in slightly less played colours. As gold cards go this is about as good as it gets, full of flavour, great utility and fits in perfectly with the colours it is in. I would probably give this at least a 4.0 if it were not for all the drawbacks of gold. How useful information from hypothetical situations is! With the influx of two colour charms from Return to Ravnica I have sent all the lingering three mana charms to the B cube as they are more playable and offer the same kind of utility and flexibility.
This has crept back into the cube as black red has become a more viable pairing of colours. First Olivia Voldaren and then Dreadbore and Rakdos Charm have all made the colour combination much more robust and potent. In addition to this planeswalkers are far more abundant than when Blightning was first released simply because more have been printed and people are better at including them in their decks. With walkers in nearly every deck now you can get a 3 for 1 with this card which is pretty brutal. As discard goes it is a little expensive and direct damage is not a great partner, in terms of synergy, for discard. It is card that offers good value but not in a package that is easy to make best use of all that value, a little like Lightning Helix. The recent cube meta has shifted a little away from raw speed and towards more purely powerful cards which also makes Blightning shine at the moment. More often are there cards to hit in peoples hands and more often are they high value cards. It is by no means an auto include in a BR deck but it is a fairly solid card and a viable choice for most of the possible BR decks.
Sphinx of the Steel Wind 2.3
This fatty is one of the best all round cards for cheating into play. It can be Reanimated, Tinkered, Welded, Show and Told or Dream Hallsed into play. You can even Sneak Attack it out although it isn't very special in that role. The problem with this card is that is utterly wreaks red and green mages who have basically no answers in their own colours to it and are very unlikely to be able to race it. Of the fatties who frequently get cheated into play this is one of the slowest clocks but with flying, life link and vigilance you are generally very safe from losing while you have it in play. Although red and green mages auto loose to this 99% of the time it is not all that big of a deal for mages of other colours who can usually find a selection of ways in which to kill it. This sees a lot of play because it is versatile in which combos it works with but also because it is the most effective card in a few specific applications, the beating of red and green players being the primary one of these but also for other matchups where you need to dominate the board and immediately take all the tempo. I have seen this card used as a top end threat but without a fairly decent amount of ramp and good colour fixing I think it is a lot worse than Baneslayer or Wurmcoil in that sort of role. I somewhat dislike the card for being so good verses some colours while fairly average against others but that is exactly what decks like reanimator want, a few silver bullets that are really likely to take the game solo which this achieves perfectly. Being three colours costing 8 mana is a world of difference to a three colour spell costing three like Dromar's Charm, especially when most of the time it is not physically cast. Artifact based ramp decks are easily able to get most colours and play effective fixing to have cards like this for hard casting even if not in one or two of the colours.
Ajani Vengeant 2.0
This is one of the cards I am aware I differ more noticeably from the opinions of the general public and the pros. The cards like Death Cloud that I rate far higher than most others do somehow seem more reasonable to be the case than for when I rate a widely regarded card such as this so poorly. It seems very unlikely that everyone else is just wrong and so I am continually playing this guy trying to find out where I am wrong. I have come to the conclusion it is the way my cube is designed and the metagame of my cube that makes Ajani so poor and not so much that either myself or everyone else is wrong. Ajani is a fairly powerful walker that really suffers from a lack of homes and that he gets less done that most other four drops in both his colours. The keeping tapped effect is versatile and nice but only giving one extra loyalty and not actually tapping the thing make it unreliable protection and generally underwhelming. With only three loyalty to begin with he is vulnerable and grows slowly while adding very little value to your position. The Lightning Helix is very powerful and fairly cost however it is hard to get multiple uses due to his initial low loyalty and his weak plus loyalty effect. His ultimate is also nicely low loyalty costs and to the point game winning however again with the limp plus loyalty ability and the low initial loyalty it is so rare to get close to going ultimate. All the best walkers get something done with an effect they can do repeatedly and so Ajani is falling short before we consider his possible homes or his gold limitations which are basically the same thing. Agro decks want more proactive things in the top of their curve and typically don't care at all about the life gain which devalues the best bit of Ajani. Control decks are much more welcoming of Ajani but have many better alternative walkers, not to mention high mana costing cards. Despite this I play him in place of better cards to prove myself wrong and always regret it. While he is good he is both too narrow and too weak in comparison to really deserve an A cube slot. If he were mono coloured, or his +1 was a +2 or he began with 4 loyalty or the +1 tapped the thing as well then he would be very worthy of a slow but as it is I just don't like him at all. I am typically pretty pleased if I get to do two Lightning Helix with this guy however most other 4 mana walkers I am hoping to win the game with or at least bail me from dire situations. I slightly prefer Sorin, Lord of Innistrad to this Ajani but they are pretty close and two of the best gold planewalkers going.
This is one of those core spells you immediately put in your BR(X) deck regardless of what else it is doing. It kills things very reliably, it scales well into the late game despite being nice and cheap and hits two of the most common threats in Magic. If you consider that Vindicate targets creatures and planeswalkers at least 80% of the time you are onto a winner with a card that costs a third less while only lose a fifth of its functionality. The only decks without planeswalkers and creatures are some extreme combo decks and these are becoming rarer and rarer to encounter. Dreadbore just does what you need it to do reliably and cheaply, it is not tricky nor does it offer card advantage but it keeps the game well tempered and lets you carry on playing, carry on doing what your deck is about doing so you can out play your opponent and win with other cards. Like so many of the best Magic cards they are hard to say much about because they are so simple, they have little text and just get a job done at a good price. Other cards in this category are Sinkhole, Ancestral Recall, Vindicate, Time Walk, Lightning Bolt, Counterspell, - all cheap, no frills, pure direct function.
Abrupt Decay 2.7
A neat little disruption spell that has a much broader range than Dreadbore but fails to scale so well into the later game or offer a reliable out to many serious problem cards. It hits very few planeswalkers and when you play a card that can deal with enchantments you want it to be able to deal with all of them including Opposition. You can't hit man lands with it and most of the dorks you kill with it have either already got value from a come into play effect or cost less than the Decay making it not great as creature kill. This card is nothing like Vindicate, it offers far less in the way of broad security and reliability and cannot be played in the same role. You play Abrupt Decay when you feel fragile in the early and mid game, when your outs are a bit long winded and expensive and when your low end is all set up rather than pro active or reactive. Over the first four or five turns Abrupt Decay will effectively disrupt basically whatever is being thrown at you, it will deal with Counterbalance and Isochron Scepter locks well as intended while being good at taking the wind out of agro strategies. Most combo decks are easily disrupted by the Decay and with it being instant you can usually engineer it to net you more card or tempo advantage than Dreadbore or Vindicate. For all this early game control and security it is not a dead card late game, just a little weaker than in the early game. Particularly good against equipment of which all the very best gets shut down by this (even Batterskull can have the germ killed taking all the tempo away) which you can do without fear of counter magic as they go to equip thus really setting them back. A solid all round disruption card that is good in control for its early prowess and good in agro for its broad application and low chances of being dud.
Olivia Voldaren 3.4
As cheap game winning threats come this is about as good as it gets. She can relatively easily deal with any problem creature and she is a growing evasive threat that kills planeswalkers then players fairly effectively. Her body is fine for the cost and is game over most of the time if you get to untap with her still out. She is cheap enough to sit at the top end of aggressive decks curves and powerful enough to tempt most control decks able to play her to do. She is however everything I don't like in a creature, she is mana intensive to get most value from, she is gold making her narrow, she is a legend making her vulnerable, she offers no value at all when deal with on sight and doesn't really have any particular synergy with anything. This doesn't really matter at all as she is just such a big bundle of power, you lay her, if they kill her it doesn't set you back that much and if they don't you win. Easy. She is most like a Masticore except better in almost every respect.
Merciless Eviction 3.2
While having not been in the cube that long this pricey golden mass removal spell has fairly well secured its A cube slot. It is the new Austere Command and rather than being narrow for being gold (which it still is a bit compared to Command) it is drawing ever more people into playing BW so as to be able to play it. Six is not cheap for mass removal but what it offers over the others make it well worthy. As proven by Austere Command, the ability to be flexible in what needs to be killed greatly increases its power even if it is killing creatures the large majority of the time. On top of this it is the first mass removal spell than can take out multiple planeswalkers, red was just becoming the best colour for mass removal as things like Bonfire and Earthquake can take out a walker alongside creatures, but not two. As more and more walkers are printed more cube decks are playing multiple walkers making facing down two at once not at all uncommon any more. Typically those decks are playing less creatures to either abuse mass removal themselves or just to accommodate the extra walkers in their list and so a mass removal spell that can take out their main threats en masse is of great use in matchups where most other Wrath effects are complete garbage able to take out a token or two, parhaps a Wall of Omens, at best. Heavy artifact decks are powerful and very hard to keep in check with removal. Vindicate is too slow and singular and you will lose to every other deck if you load up on too much pure artifact hate. Doubling up as a mass artifact removal spell gives you a huge edge going into any match against the common and powerful artifact based decks. Only a few six mana white spells and Pernicious Deed offer the ability to kill artifacts en masse without being dead against most archetypes making the powerful ones gold dust. I have not even gotten to the best bit yet which is of course the exile aspect over sacrifice, destroy, bury (if your old school), bouncing or putting back in the library in some way. Merciless Eviction guarantees death to everything in play and negates almost all pesky resilliance effects like persist and undying. Obviously Thragtusk gets his 3/3 but is at least gone forever along with his buddies. This matters most to decks trying to use things like Recurring Nightmare or Genesis which can be ruined with a mass exile but will be good in almost every matchup.
Huntsmaster of the Fells 2.4
A card that offers a lot of value and power for what you pay but is all rather disjointed. It is unreliable to flip and slow to net advantage as you do. When its is a 2/2 you are precious with it in combat and it is vulnerable to removal making it a bit weird in agro decks and very vulnerable for a four mana investment in general. Sure you get some life and a 2/2 token to ensure you get a good bit of initial tempo but it is not always the easiest to convert into an advantage. If he flips about a lot he starts to feel like a planeswalker spitting out life and damage and tokens and the odd smack for 4 in the face (a la Koth) but kindof an erratic one without any real synergy. The best use I have found for his is with Birthing Pod where you can easily engineer a flip on the turn you bring him into play,the same would work for Aether Vial as well I guess but it hasn't come up as yet. It is just as well he is a lot of monster for what you pay as he doesn't really fit in well anywhere, he just makes up for it in power.
Selesnya Charm 2.3
This is the most all round useful of the latest charm cycle, the problem with the card is that there are far fewer archetypes that might want it than for some of the other less potent charms. All of the various aspects are powerful, highly desirable in fairly frequent situations and easy to put to work. It has the added advantage of never being dead at any stage, a 2/2 flash vigilance isn't all that bad just as something to curve out with instead of using as a surprise blocker / bonus attacker. A combat trick is a very powerful way to get card advantage or removal, even both sometimes, alongside gaining tempo. It suffers from being situational rather than underpowered and so when on a card with numerous other functions it is ideal. The trample bonus gives it great added utility allowing you to use it as a finishing or way of proccing your Sword or Jitte. Finally it is a cheap effective removal spell that ranks up there with Path and Plow when you are facing the most serious of threats. For just two mana at instant speed and exile to boot this card laughs at Terminate when killing the bigger scarier stuff. All in all a lovely little bundle of stuff that is making most GW decks, few though they might be.
Izzet Charm 2.1
I thought this charm would be better than it is turning out to be. While it is never dead and has some widely applicable and useful abilities none of them put you particularly ahead. Selesnya Charm will put you well ahead if you get to pump or knight into a combat trick or exile a fatty, the best Izzet Charm will ever be is a 100% price inflated Shock, Spell Pierce or Careful Study. The strength in all of those spells is that they are very cheap and so adding a mana on the cost dramatically reduces their effectiveness. Sure, they are all in one convenient bundle of flexibility but the options you lose by it not being at one mana is comparable to the options you gain by having them all from one card. If you need something done play a cheap burn, card quality or counter spell and not this card. If you need some generic filler or something to smooth out your curve and bolster a few areas of your deck at once then the Charm is more appropriate. Despite the underwheling power of its effects they are all still very useful, fairly synergistic and rarely dead leaving an all round tasty looking package, just don't go expecting Fire / Ice or you will be sorely disappointed.
Deathrite Shaman 4.2
While not quite as reliable as a Birds of Paradise due to its need of eating lands it is really not far off and easy to engineer it to be very consistent. The fact that it is even comparable to Birds of Paradise is a complete joke as it is a black card. Giving black access to a one mana ramp card is quite insane in terms of the metagame. Deathrite Shaman has been appearing in a vast array of decks, even those you really wouldn't expect such as quirky red deck wins with Dark Confidant. Lots of mono black decks have loved having access to ramp as well as the potential for life gain and have diversified in builds as a result of the Shaman. He is easy to splash and cast and offers far far more than just ramp and fixing. Sac lands, cycling lands and an abundance of other effects, many of which are black and green, easily fill the yard full of lands to allow prolonged mana influx from the Shaman. The thing is his other effects are so good you often find you would rather save him to get those on the go, certainly in the mid and late game. He is great at keeping some of the more powerful cards in check such as Snapcaster Mage, persist and undying monsters, Life from the Loam, Lingering Souls etc. He is great against red deck wins as a cheap way of gaining life that has to be killed and in red deck wins as a versatile card capable of disruption as well as forcing through repeated unblockable life loss. Shaman offers so much for so little in almost every stage of the game and in almost every matchup. He may come down and seem subtle, he may add a mana or two and leave you thinking he has done his thing only to have him ruin you with one of the other abilities later on. One of the very best creatures in magic chock full of convenience, utility and value.
Rakdos Charm 2.5
So far this has performed the best of any charm from RtR block which was a bit of a surprise. The abilities may not be as widely useful as that of Izzet Charm however that is one of the great strengths of cards with multiple options, that they can afford some of those to be more situational. This is why the pump effect on Selesnya Charm is so good. The payback for having more situational effects is that they can be far more powerful and significant in a game than occurs with something like Izzet Charm. Removing the graveyard destroys some decks while doing only subtle things at best against most. The pingy effect is both a good way to kill planeswalkers and also a reasonable finisher. The Shatter option is the staple ability you expect to be most commonly of use. While not nearly as frequently usable than the core effects on some of the other charms it is the sort of effect you want to have in a deck. Commonly cards like Torch Fiend and Manic Vandal are used to offer the ability to kill artifacts without being dead when none need killing, While good value these cards are not exactly tricky and are hard to engineer any further value from. Being cheaper, hidden and instant the Rakdos Charm can kill equipment when they pay their equip costs and so forth making it far better in the role of killing artifacts than the other safe options. An odd selection of affects that results in a streamlined bundle of useful outs and options for any kind of deck without detracting from the focus of that deck.
Rakdos Cackler 2.3
A very neat and convenient two power beater for one. The Cackler gets a lot of play in red decks which lack many top quality one drop aggressors but pops up in black as well from time to time although the creature type is of no help to black mages. In red or black decks he is just your run of the mill one drop beater having that is comparable to Diregraf Ghoul. In red and black decks however he is a fair chunk better for the simple and subtle reason of him being incredibly easy to cast. Not just on turn one where any colour of land will make him for you but on turns two and three where you can cast it with whatever leftover mana you may have after casting your Sinkhole or your Searing Blaze. The drawback is one of the most negligible of any in the cube, it is there to attack not block yet if you know you need it to block when you make it then you have that option. Two toughness is pleasant adding that extra bit of tempo and durability yet if you just want to Skullclamp it away you can agian make it as a 1/1.
Supreme Verdict 2.2
This directly replaced Day of Judgement as it was found the only decks that ever wanted to run both Wrath of God and Day of Judgement was UW control decks. While the ability to evade counter magic is almost irrelevant the being blue enhances the worth of the spell. It is no harder to cast in a UW deck than Wrath and company despite the blue in the cost and may be pitched to Force of Will or just improve a Chrome Mox it is imprinted on. I have no love of replacing fine mono coloured cards with clumsy gold ones however there was little excuse not to in this case. Not many creatures regenerate so the Verdict can even be better than Wrath itself but I stress again this is not for the uncounterable aspect. Few agro decks run counter magic and against the control ones your mass removal is often pretty dead, at best sitting in hand until it gets to potentially kill a single threat.
Detention Sphere 2.3
This basically just offers redundancy to Oblivion Ring which is a solid all round card and a necessarily evil for most UW control decks. Unless planeswalkers are countered it is very hard to deal with them as a UW deck, the control ones in particular. These kinds of effect, while not the most reliable or efficient answer to something do have that Vindicate feel about them more often than not. You play them to be safe against walkers and have outs to the odd card like a Smokestack without having to play the narrow disenchant. The Sphere is a lot less exciting than Oblivion Ring as it can't go in things like white weenie and the ability to hit multiple permanents is only really something that happens on tokens. Exactly as with Supreme Verdict a big part of this cards success is that UW control decks are among the most keen to play it and in them the extra colour in the card is an advantage rather than a disadvantage due to Force of Will.
Vraska the Unseen 2.2
Vraska is an odd planeswalker, she fits more into the same ballpark as Chandra Nalaar and Karn Liberated as she rarely pro-actively wins games. Instead what she does is bring them to a much slower pace and keep things calm while they try and find an answer. This is because her +1 ability doesn't do anything to further your board position or generate any card advantage. Her -3 is powerful and useful but requires them to have things you want to kill to be of any use. This would all be fine if she had a better ultimate but sadly it is one of the worst and least reliable wins of any walker. I had a control mirror recently where I got her to 12 loyalty simply because any other option didn't really do anything. Eventually I tried to make some assassins but obviously that didn't work, I had her back up to 11 loyalty before I finally won by decking my opponent. So far assassins have only taken a single victory in my cube and that wasn't the correct way to play that particular game... Vraska is a nice safe card with a healthy amount of loyalty and an out option to almost any card troubling you. She is only viable in control decks as she can't really apply pressure, only stall it. While she is less powerful than Ajani Vengeant she gets slightly more play simply from her colours having more supporting archetypes.
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad 2.3
At first glance I thought this was fairly comparable to Elspeth, Knight-Errant but this is far from the case. The differene between 3 and 4 starting loyalty is pretty huge not to mention how much better Elspeth's other +1 ability is compared to Sorin's -2 effect. Walkers are almost all about their first ability however and any four mana walker that makes tokens while growing is a serious problem for most decks, things will escalate out of control fast and so they need answering shortly. Making 1/1 lifelinkers is a reasonable trade for the lower starting loyalty as you grow your life total and Sorins loyalty simultaneously, even if all you are doing is chump blocking every turn. Sorin is able to be proactive and defensive and works equally well in agro, midrange and control decks. He is at his best in a tokens based deck where his -2 ability is at its most powerful. The -2 ability also has good synergy with his +1 effect however this only comes into play if Sorin has been in play for a little while so as to build up a decent count of lifelinking tokens. One thing Sorin does excel at over many other walkers is his ultimate which isn't all that situational, doesn't cost too much and should win the game convincingly. Ultimates matter very little as they are so rarely used, returning to Elspeth who is one of the best walkers in Magic yet has one of the worst ultimates paints this picture well. A nice rounded walker that would be a cube mainstay if it was just one colour but makes the cut as he is none the less but obviously appears in decks far less often.